Less Wrong is usually about cultivating rationality. Rationality is only worth what you use it for. Today I'm going to write about how I have been applying rationality in a scalable way to a global threat.

Other contributors on Less Wrong have already written about the danger COVID-19 presents to people in the USA (where I live) and in the world more generally (where I also live). Anything we can do to reduce the spread of this pandemic could potentially save lives.

I live in Seattle, the epicenter of the US's outbreak. I cancelled my first social event a month ago. I've been in near-total self-imposed quarantine for a week. I wash my hands for 20 seconds several times per day and, well, you get the idea.

I'm not worried about getting hurt from this disease. I'm 27 and healthy. I want to avoid getting incapacitated right now because I might be in a position to do something scalable about this pandemic.

The WHO guidelines are as follows:

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Stay away from other people
  3. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
  4. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough
  5. Stay informed

Wait a minute. What was the third bullet point again?

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

I run a company that helps people keep from touching their mouth and eyebrows.

For the last week our 3-person team has been working like crazy to reconfigure our product to detect face touching. We've modified our firmware to better support face touching. We're re-written our Android and iOS mobile apps' user interfaces to make it easier to set up our product. We've cut our margins in order to increase the number of people who can afford this. We are rapidly rebuilding our supply chain in case we have to handle a large number of orders.

We launched our new product this morning.

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Nice! I hadn’t heard of your product till now, and I immediately bought it upon seeing this post & your website. I hope it works :P

I hope so too! Stay sanitary!


Let my team know when one of us expressed an interest in reducing face touching.

This is awesome. Keep fighting the good fight.

Sold out on the website. Any ideas where else to get one?

Otherwise I guess masks are a decent substitute (they don't need to be P95 for this purpose...)

We expect to have more in about a month.

We started shipping the earliest orders yesterday. If an order is placed today, we expect to ship on April 6, 2020.

Cool idea! Do you need one for each hand to make it effective?

That's a good question. Here's our official answer from the FAQ:

You don't need two bands, but having bands on each hand increases the efficacy of alerting you whenever you touch your face. Putting one band on your dominant hand will alert when that one hand touches your face, which is more effective than no alerting.

In my experience using our similar product for nail biting, one bracelet is more than half as effective than two bracelets. There are two reasons for this. The first is that putting a bracelet on my dominant hand catches more than half of face touches. But more importantly, the device is designed around the idea of awareness. In my personal experience, awareness of nail biting with my right hand generalizes (substantially, though not completely) to my left hand.